BETWEEN THE LINES

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Screenshot of Goldman Sans’ introductory slideshow

The Verge published a story today about how notoriously disreputable, economy-tanking investment bank Goldman Sachs has released its own font, Goldman Sans, that comes with an unusual stipulation: it cannot be used for any texts that disparage Goldman Sachs. By downloading the font, you agree to these terms. And one more thing: Goldman Sachs reserves the right to terminate its use, and because it owns the license to the font, it can do so for whatever reason it pleases.

Fonts are a loaded medium, and not just for their psychological significance. A font is political. I’m reminded of the Nazi use of Fraktur, a traditional blackletter font, to reassert German identity through typography. It was preferred font of the party although its use in publishing had declined steadily through 19th century. In fact, when it was found that use of Fraktur would impede communications in occupied territories that favored contemporary fonts, Fraktur was declared “Jewish” and removed from use.

Anything written in Goldman Sans is going to be a statement of values, and I can’t see any benefit in slaving oneself to a corporation in such a way. Unless you’re working in Goldman Sachs’ marketing department, there is literally no reason to use this font. No one up the chain will notice you; you won’t get a piece of the bailout for your good behavior; on the opposite end of the spectrum, even widespread trolling efforts won’t phase a company that can litigate you into oblivion with little effort. The corporatization of everyday life already sees us subsuming our identities into the machinations of productivity and capital, and there is no point in subsuming mundane aesthetics as well. Use another font. I can promise no one will notice.